Jai Singh Rai embarks on a journey to buy a new coffee-to-go machine for his convenience store, sharing his steps along the way.

Seven years ago I bought a counter top hot drinks machine for my store as I felt that there was an opportunity for sales and profit from coffee and tea on-the-go. I invested £5,000 in the machine and I have to admit that since 2009 the return on investment has not been great. As people have told me, if you never make any mistakes you don’t learn how to be a success.

Nevertheless, I knew that as part of my store development project I would need to improve our coffee and food-to-go offer. After making the mistake with my first machine I asked many of the successful retailers around the country how they do coffee in-store. What retailers like Steve Bassett from Weymouth confirmed to me was that in the right location, sales from coffee and other hot drinks can be huge.

There are a growing number of suppliers in the coffee channel that break down to floor standing machines. The customer selects their drink by pressing the correct button and the machine does the rest.

I spent six months researching what was available, talking to other retailers, and taking advice from people in the trade that I respect. Along my journey I was joined by One Stop franchisee Dee Sedani who was also looking to improve the coffee to go offer in his store. It may seem odd, but neither of us are coffee drinkers which added to our challenge.

Dee and I eventually brought the choice of supplier down to Jacks Beans from Smiths News and Rijo42.

To make a final decision plenty of tasting had to be done. We needed to know about the support that we would get, both in launching the new service in-store and in the longer term in keeping the machine in tip-top condition. We of course wanted to understand the cost and just what the contract would require from us.

The representative from Jack’s Beans, Harvey, visited my store five times and I was very happy with the coffee and their machine, but I didn’t see what the story about the brand was to sell to our customers. I also felt that at £2 a cup I may struggle to build enough sales to meet an acceptable profit return from the store space.

This left the Rijo42 machine. I accompanied Dee to the Rijo42 office in Manchester to have their machines demonstrated to us and to sample their coffee. We all agreed that it was the best we had tasted. As our other criteria for selecting a supplier were answered positively it was down to doing a deal.

We chose the Brazil High Gloss bean to cup coffee machine at a cost of £5,000. The cost was offset by a start-up supply pack that is sufficient to make enough coffee to produce the machine cost in sales.

In my next article I will cover what happened next.